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This article was published 15/4/2019 (221 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Jason and Marnie Dyck believe every child should get to experience the great outdoors.
The couple, who live in Carey, west of St Pierre, have created a new non-profit organization called Enabled Outdoors that aims to turn that belief into reality.
The organization allows children of all ages who live with a mental or physical disability, life-threatening illness, or financial hardship to participate in guided, accessible outdoor adventures.
"If nobody is going to give the kids the opportunity, they’ll never be able to go out and do these things," Jason, an experienced outdoorsman and self-employed outfitter, explained.
"It’s enabling the kids, giving them an opportunity. That’s the key there: you have to have the opportunity."
The Dycks, who have two children, Coleman (14) and Kymber (12), are currently hard at work planning and fundraising for the organization’s first three events: fishing in Lac du Bonnet on June 25, an ATV ride in Woodridge on July 6, and camping in St Malo Provincial Park the weekend of July 27-28.
All of the events are free for participating families. Children can be referred by a support organization or registered by their parent or guardian. No prior experience is required, and equipment is provided. Jason is also planning to send each child home with a fishing rod or sleeping bag.
Seated at their kitchen table last Monday, Jason and Marnie explained the idea for Enabled Outdoors began with a desire to see more special-needs children enjoy the confidence-building opportunities that Coleman, who lives with Down syndrome, has experienced.
Since he was a baby, Coleman has gone hunting, fishing, and wildlife-watching with his parents and sister.
"They’ve been flying in airplanes and helicopters all over the north," Jason said.
Recently, Coleman became the first child with Down syndrome to complete the Manitoba hunter safety course.
Settling in Carey after a decade spent running a fishing lodge near Lynn Lake, Jason and Marnie began realizing there were few organizations in Manitoba dedicated to helping special-needs children experience the outdoors.
So, in February, at the Manitoba Outdoors Show in Winnipeg, they launched Enabled Outdoors.
The response was immediate, with outfitting companies and industry associations from across southern Manitoba offering donations and equipment. A fundraising dinner later this month in St Pierre has sold out, and about 25 children have already registered for the fishing trip.
"It just got so much traction," Jason said. "It took off so fast."
He and Marnie see the events as a way to help children with unique needs boost their confidence and form lasting friendships.
"When we see those kids all together, so comfortable with each other, they realize that they have something in common," Jason said.
They also hope parents will build an informal support network as they visit at events.
"There are families that are new to this," Jason said. "They think their kids are too fragile to do some of these things. We show them that if you take them out there…they’re not going to break."
He likened the learning curve to Coleman and Kymber’s first time climbing into a boat or onto an ATV.
"Now, they love it. It’s all they want to do."
The same could be said of Jason himself, who has hunted on four continents. Raised in Grunthal, he has worked as a taxidermist, outfitter, guide, consultant, and magazine writer.
A year ago, he landed a job as a television host. Jason Dyck’s Guide Life is broadcast on Wild TV in Canada and Pursuit Channel in the United States.
"It’s pretty much the only thing in the outdoor world I haven’t done yet," he joked.
In the off season, he speaks at trade shows and seminars.
"It’s been my life," he said of the outdoors. "I think there’s more to learn being in the outdoors than sitting in your house playing video games and watching TV all the time."
Earlier in his career he worked at Kindale Industries in Steinbach, a job that taught him to focus on capabilities, not disabilities.
Marnie grew up in Winnipeg, spending her summers in Shoal Lake, a small community northwest of Brandon. She now owns a post-construction cleaning company.
The two have hunted mule deer in the Rocky Mountains and caribou in Northwest Territories.
As their first Enabled Outdoors event nears, registration numbers grow, and so do equipment needs. Those able to volunteer or contribute boats and fishing equipment can call Jason at 204-392-0475 or Marnie at 204-392-2178.